You can learn a lot about a leader by the books they read.
Many of the country’s top CEOs are voracious readers and occasionally they reveal their favorite reads. The beauty of this type of learning is that there is no secret – you or I can pick up the same books they read.
In this post, we’ll talk about four different books recommended by a well-known business leader or CEO.
“The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business” by Clayton M. Christensen
Whenever a company finds success, it can be hard to switch things up, especially if you’re doing everything right. But, there comes a point where profit, Harvard’s Christensen says, can choke out the innovative sparks that lead to the long-term success you want.
“The best professional managers — doing all the right things and following all the best advice — lead their companies all the way to the top of their markets in that pursuit… only to fall straight off the edge of a cliff after getting there,” the Harvard Business Review wrote.
Steve Jobs loved Christensen’s book. The HBR says some of that adoration stems from the fact that when Jobs was removed as the CEO of Apple, his replacement, John Sculley, focused more on profit than on passion.
“My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. The products, not the profits, were the motivation,” Jobs was quoted as saying in the HBR article. “Sculley flipped these priorities to where the goal was to make money. It’s a subtle difference, but it ends up meaning everything.”
“Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales From the World of Wall Street” by John Brooks
Two legendary business leaders say this book is a powerful tome: Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. In fact, according to Inc., it was Buffet who recommended the book to Gates.
“Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates read Business Adventures at Buffett’s recommendation and says the 1969 collection of Wall Street tales remains his favorite business book to date,” John Rampton wrote.
But be forewarned, Gates said in a 2016 CNBC article, this book isn’t a bite-sized compilation of bullet points meant to vault your company into massive success.
Quite the opposite, actually. Brooks, a former reporter at The New Yorker, digs into his stories and generates compelling narratives meant to instruct through example.
“Unlike a lot of today’s business writers, Brooks didn’t boil his work down into pat how-to lessons or simplistic explanations for success,” Gates told CNBC. “You won’t find any listicles in his work. Brooks wrote long articles that frame an issue, explore it in depth, introduce a few compelling characters, and show how things went for them.”
“The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right” by Atul Gawande
This book is a favorite of Jack Dorsey, the man behind Twitter and Square.
According to Business Insider, Dorsey quotes the book often and, at the time, included it in a welcome kit for all new hires at Square.
One of his favorites? A Gawande quote about venture capitalists choosing the right startups, BI says:
“One needs a person who can take an idea from proposal to reality, work the long hours, build a team, handle the pressures and setbacks, manage technical and people problems alike, and stick with the effort for years on end without getting distracted or going insane. Such people are rare and extremely hard to spot.”
Gawande, a surgeon, wrote the book because, as Inc. points out, he believes “clearly written guides and checklists are required for completing complex tasks to the best of your ability.”
Feel like you need a solid system to help you get through the day? “The Checklist Manifesto” could be exactly what you need.
Wrapping It Up: A Few Final Thoughts
Reading these books won’t guarantee your business or professional life will magically elevate itself.
While each individual book may provide you practical ways to manage one part of your life, making reading a consistent practice in your life is what will, most likely, create the change you seek.
If you’d like a longer list of CEO’s favorite books, look at this Inc. article called “25 Books Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Other Top CEOs Recommend.”